Nestled between Burnett Creek and Prophetstown State Park in Battle Ground, Indiana lies the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park. The 16-acre park commemorates the November 11, 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, fought between American forces led by Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh’s Shawnee-led Native American Confederation under the temporary guidance of the Prophet Tenskwatawa.
The site is a must-see spot for Hoosier history buffs of all ages and for those wishing to learn more about the state of Indiana’s early development.
Given the site’s significance in American history, the Tippecanoe Battlefield was reserved by the state of Indiana for special recognition as early as 1836. In 1908, Indiana erected the Battlefield Monument to commemorate the battle and to honor the Americans who died in the engagement.
The monument and surrounding park became a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
In fall of 1811, Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison led a force of approximately 1000 Indiana militiamen, Indiana Rangers, American Army Regulars, and Kentucky militiamen north from the territorial capital of Vincennes towards the “Prophet’s Town” encampment along the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers near present day Lafayette, Indiana.
The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa (the Prophet) had led a religious movement among Native American tribes living in the Old Northwest Territory in the decade prior to the battle. The movement advocated for a collaborative force to resist American settlement on Native lands – essentially a pan-Native American resistance movement.
After establishing an encampment in Greenville, Ohio in the early 1800s – the Prophet and Tecumseh moved their followers to a new village site at the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers in 1808 – approximately at the site of present-day Prophetstown State Park.
Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa attracted thousands of Native Americans to their village and to assist in the cause of the Native confederates This alarmed territorial officials who sought the land for white settlement.
Tecumseh met with Harrison in August 1811 and attempted to reassure the governor of the peaceful intentions at Prophetstown. Tecumseh then traveled south to raise support from southern tribes, while governor Harrison left for state business in Kentucky.
Under Harrison’s absence, John Gibson served as acting-governor and under his watch, he learned that the Tecumseh was only biding time and that the confederation had hostile intentions.
Upon Harrison’s return, he led the aforementioned force north to confront the Native Americans at Prophetstown. As Tecumseh went south, he left his brother in charge of the village. The Americans arrived near Prophetstown and camped along Burnett Creek on November 6.
In the pre-dawn hours of November 7, Native forces under Tenskwatawa attacked the American encampment. Fierce fighting erupted on the site and lasted for two hours. In the end, it is estimated that 70 Native American warriors lost their lives, with an additional 80 wounded. 63 American soldiers and militiamen died, with 126 wounded.
The battle resulted in the destruction of the Prophet’s coalition, the burning of Prophetstown, and Tenskwatawa’s Nativist movement lost much of its momentum. Prophetstown was partially rebuilt in 1812, but was destroyed during the Second Battle of Tippecanoe a year later.
Tippecanoe Battlefield Park commemorates these events. The site was used by William Henry Harrison in his successful 1840 presidential bid as a rallying place (he gave his first campaign speech here).
The Tippecanoe County Historical Association interprets the site at an adjacent museum. Along with an extensive collection, the museum has several exhibits that explain this history in much more detail.
The museum is open 10 am – 5 pm every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2 for children under the age of 16.
The Tippecanoe Battlefield Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is free.
The TCHA also holds the Annual Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, which will be in its 50th year in 2017 (Saturday, September 30 – Sunday, October 1, 2017). The event commemorates the 300 year anniversary of the founding of Fort Ouiatenon – a French and Native American trading fort along the Wabash River.